Dead Harvest by Chris F Holm
Meet Sam Thornton. He collects souls.
Sam’s job is to collect the souls of the damned, and ensure they are dispatched to the appropriate destination. But when he’s sent to collect the soul of a young woman he believes to be innocent of the horrific crime that’s doomed her to Hell, he says something no Collector has ever said before.
I have a confession to make – My name is Pablo and I’m an addict, I’m hooked on Angry Robot books. There I’ve said it, feels good to finally get it out there into the open. Things got so bad that I’ve actively avoided Angry Robot publications for the last couple of months. Ever since I pronounced them my publisher of 2011 in December, I realised that I had to go ‘cold turkey’ for a while. There was a serious danger of me reading nothing but Angry Robot books all the time and getting stuck on one publisher doesn’t work terribly well if you are a book reviewer.
Up until very recently I’ve done quite well. There has been the odd wobble (I’m looking at you Empire State), but with the exception of that one lapse my life has been Angry Robot free. I’ve taken each day one step at a time and I thought that I had my Angry Robot habit beat.
What changed then? Why am I wallowing once again in the quagmire of bookish addiction? I have two words for you – Dead Harvest.
I’m a sucker for novels, films and TV shows that deal with the subject matter of life after death, and the afterlife. The last great unknown is a fertile playground for any author, and Chris Holm has let his imagination have free reign in Dead Harvest. He has created a world where the forces of Heaven and Hell are locked in an uneasy detente, just so long as everyone continues to do their jobs.
Sam Thornton, the novel’s main protagonist, has a crumpled world-weariness that makes his character immediately engaging. He has been ground down by having to deal with dark forces, demons and scumbags for decades. Such a long time in fact that it’s hardly a surprise that he has finally reached his breaking point. Sam’s one act of rebellion, refusing to collect a soul, starts a chain of events that could have dire apocalyptic consequences. Both sides in this cold war don’t appreciate anyone changing the rules, and Sam’s compassion could be the world’s undoing.
I really like the fact that Sam is flying by the seat of his pants for nearly the entire novel. He has spent decades confined by his role but now he is working without the aid of a safety net, just making it up as he goes along. As Sam re-discovers what it means to no longer be bound by the rules of his curse his new found sense of freedom is palpable.
Throughout the main narrative there are flashbacks that cover Sam’s introduction into the world of the Collectors. These glimpses into Sam’s past offer valuable insight for the reader. You get to discover the man that Sam once was and, more importantly, why he has ended up in the situation he finds himself in.
Dead Harvest is available in multiple formats, as an ebook or paperback, and I have to say that in this case I would favour the paperback edition. Why? Well the paperback has some wonderfully evocative retro style cover art, definitely a handsome addition to any self-respecting bookcase. I was searching for a picture of said cover on the Internet and it appears that the second Collectors novel, The Wrong Goodbye, will be similarly styled. Kudos has to go to Amazing15 for some truly eye-catching designs.
Dead Harvest is a fantastic entry into the every growing Angry Robot cannon. Fast paced dark fantasy that is likely to leave you wanting more. Be warned though, this is the literary equivalent of crack, and it is entirely possible that if you aren’t already, you are going to get hooked. Take it from someone who knows.
Dead Harvest is released on 1st March 2012 in the UK and as available now in US/Canada. It will probably come as no surprise to learn that Dead Harvest is published by those fine purveyors of addictive literary genre fiction Angry Robot Books.